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Former President Donald Trump has created a unique gravitational pull for lawsuits and investigations that often hit the people in his orbit. His organization’s former chief financial officer pleaded guilty to 15 felonies Thursday and his former lawyer testified Wednesday in a criminal probe related to the 2020 election.
The burst of activity comes from the authorities circling around him – federal, state, city and county prosecutors – who are all considering ways to hold him accountable for:
- His personal business.
- His treatment of classified data as he left the White House.
- His anti-democratic efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Unless you’ve been on Mars for the summer, you know that his Florida home was searched by the FBI for possible mishandling of classified documents.
But there are so many more cases that touch Trump.
Consider the recent developments regarding his business dealings:
- Trump’s business – The Trump Organization’s former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, who worked for the Trump family since 1973, pleaded guilty to a 15-year tax fraud scheme and will serve about 100 days of jail time and pay nearly $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. Weisselberg has agreed to testify against the Trump Organization at trial. Read CNN’s full report.
The same week Trump’s Florida home was searched by the FBI, the former President was under oath in New York.
- Trump’s finances – He and two of his adult children have testified as part of a civil investigation by the New York attorney general into whether the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. This inquiry is separate from the criminal investigation of the Trump Organization pursed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have sparked their own subset of legal issues, one of which was on major display Wednesday in Atlanta.
- Georgia’s 2020 election results – His former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was on Wednesday in front of a grand jury investigating Trump’s effort to find votes and overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Giuliani was described by CNN’s reporter as defiant and exuding confidence. This investigation is being conducted by the Fulton County district attorney. Read more.
Those developments are on top of what we learned earlier this month.
- 2020 election – While the Fulton County inquiry is focused just on Georgia, the US Department of Justice appears to be conducting a larger inquiry into January 6, 2021, and the events surrounding the Capitol insurrection. CNN reported earlier this week that former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, who was featured in the House January 6 committee hearings, is just the latest White House official under Trump to be subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.
Just hoping to stay out of jail
Trump is plotting a path to reelection in 2024 while Giuliani is hoping to stay out of prison, according to a former spokesman for the latter.
Giuliani’s exposure to legal trouble as a henchman of Trump’s election conspiracy theories and efforts to overturn the 2020 results weighs on the former New York mayor and US attorney, who knows a thing or two about prosecutions, according to Ken Frydman, Giuliani’s former press secretary.
“He knows he lied for his client, and he knows we all know,” Frydman said on CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday, suggesting Giuliani’s tactic will be to delay legal proceedings as much as possible. “I think, you know, at this point in his life, his goal is to die a free man.”
Giuliani is among a number of Trump supporters – including Sen. Lindsey Graham and most of the slate of fake electors – who have been ordered to appear. Both Graham and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp have asked judges to reconsider.
We continue to learn more about how Trump’s allies pursued their effort to overturn the election. The Washington Post reported this week that lawyers working on behalf of Trump attempted to access Dominion voting machine data in several states Trump lost, including Michigan, Georgia and Nevada. State authorities have opened investigations into the propriety of the breaches in Michigan and Georgia.
- Defamation for 2020 conspiracy theories – Dominion is in the midst of suing Giuliani and another Trump-connected attorney, Sidney Powell, for defamation after they and other Trump allies claimed, without evidence, the Dominion election systems were somehow involved in rigging the election.
These are not like political prosecutions
When he refused to answer questions from the New York attorney general, Trump labeled the investigation a “Witch Hunt,” as he does with all these separate investigations.
“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” he said in a statement.
He has also portrayed these varied investigations as the kind of persecution you might find in an autocracy or dictatorship. Russia’s opposition leaders are routinely locked up, for instance.
That’s a flawed and dangerous comparison, however, since Trump and his legal problems are the anomaly among all previous presidents, and he has not yet been charged with any crimes. If anything, the US judicial system seems biased against putting him on trial, at least not without mountains of evidence.
CNN’s Dan Berman has a running list of all the major Trump-related legal issues, including a defamation case against the former President. See the list.
Trump’s power in the GOP is still strong
With Rep. Liz Cheney’s loss in the Wyoming GOP primary Tuesday night, that’s it for the “Impeachment 10,” as this CNN interactive calls the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021.
- Four are retiring.
- Four lost a primary.
- Two will be on the ballot in November, after advancing in primaries in Washington and California.
Meanwhile, another key Trump opponent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted to convict him in his impeachment trial, advanced in her state’s top-four primary, along with a Trump-backed challenger.
Cheney said she will continue her work on the January 6 committee, hoping to uncover the full truth about efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
And if Trump runs in 2024, she has not ruled out a run of her own to give Republicans a non-Trump option.
Trump’s warped 2020 election mindset has been channeled by a majority of the Republican nominees for governor, according to CNN’s Daniel Dale.
He writes: The Republican nominee in at least 21 of this year’s 36 gubernatorial races is someone who has rejected, declined to affirm, raised doubts about, or tried to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. And the list will almost certainly get longer when the last batch of Republican primaries is completed over the coming weeks.
Who beat Cheney?
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny was in Wyoming covering the Cheney race and filed a profile of Harriet Hageman, the former Cheney friend and Trump opponent who later embraced Trump as she campaigned against Cheney.
While Hageman played up her opposition to the January 6 committee at rallies, Zeleny found Republican voters who were most interested in moving on from 2020 and said they wanted a representative focused most on Wyoming. Read his report.
While it does not appear that the 2020 results are what’s motivating most Republican voters – that would be the economy – it does appear there will be a fair amount of election denialism on the ballot for the midterm elections in November.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
Correction: In the photo on this story, the original caption from the Bloomberg news agency misidentified the man on the right as Vernon Jones. It has been updated.